Faculty Club / Course Design / Service Learning in Business Courses: 9 Project Ideas

Service Learning in Business Courses: 9 Project Ideas

Richard Kido, MBA, says service learning is part of his school’s accounting program. Here, ideas from his session at Course Hero Education Summit ’19.

Richard Kido, MBA, says service learning is part of his school’s accounting program. Here, ideas from his session at Course Hero Education Summit ’19.

Richard Kido, MBA


Associate Professor of Accounting,
Chaminade University of Honolulu

Master’s in Business Administration

Professor Richard Kido, MBA, has worked in the private sector as a business owner and a CFO. But one of his proudest moments came in 2008 as a professor of accounting at Chaminade University in Honolulu. That was when his school received the Presidential Award for its service-learning program—thanks, in part, to his efforts.

Today, as the school’s accounting department chair, Kido has instituted a policy that requires every accounting course to include “an element of service learning.” This means that “students progress with various levels of service learning throughout their careers,” he said.

In his session at the Course Hero Education Summit ’19, Kido said he is a firm believer that any educator can find a way to get students to use their classroom learnings to help the community. To that end, he shared some of the activities that have worked for him, then invited participants to follow suit. Below are examples from business professors in the session.

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Doing bookkeeping for the National Park Service

Accounting students at Chaminade spend a week at a leper colony, administered by the National Park Service, offering help with financial and accounting work.

Allocating costs for Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity normally builds one house at a time, but when they decided to construct a small community, they enlisted Chaminade accounting students to help figure out how to allocate costs of bulk purchases (drywall, wood, etc.) among the homes.

Completing tax returns with the working homeless

On evenings and Saturdays, Chaminade’s accounting students meet with local working homeless people to complete their tax returns. In particular, they help them apply for the earned income tax credit, of which many are not aware. This can be a substantial financial benefit to them.

Helping first-gen students seek FAFSA aid

Many high schoolers near Chaminade will be first-generation college students and are ESL learners, which makes FAFSA forms a challenge to complete. Accounting majors help them do the paperwork so that they can be considered for much-needed financial aid.

Conducting mock job interviews

This program, pioneered by session attendee Thomas Norman, PhD, of California State University, Dominguez Hills, requires human resources students to go to a regional occupational center in Torrance, attended by “the most underserved high school students in Los Angeles,” to volunteer as mock interviewers to help the center’s students prepare for their first jobs. These students are pursuing training for jobs that do not require a four-year degree, such as being welders, pet-groomers, and certified medical assistants.

Purchasing and renovating a small business

In a study-abroad program, Norman took 14 undergraduate students to Bulgaria, where an alumnus provided 100,000 euros for them to buy a property to renovate and create local jobs. One project students are working on is renovating a former Soviet theater to turn part of it into a museum that includes information on the building’s role in government spying on civilians. The theater was donated to the nonprofit Stone & Compass, the university partner in Bulgaria.

Providing consulting services to a nonprofit

Graduate and undergraduate students at UNM recently worked pro bono with the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce to help them examine their membership strategy, optimize growth, and manage their finite resources, according to Reilly White, PhD, of the University of New Mexico.

Teaching financial literacy to college students

The African American Student Association at UNM hosts events in which finance students deliver voluntary lectures and one-on-one talks to help their classmates learn practical skills for money management.

Helping nonprofits optimize advertising

Brian Stevens, of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, noted that UTK assistant department head for business analytics and statistics, lecturer, and alumnus Julie Ferrara, whose background includes a successful career in Silicon Valley, works with grad and undergrad students to help local nonprofits control their presence on Google Ads.

Final Thoughts: Ideas for Managing Liability

Norman said that at California State University, Dominguez Hills, the person in charge of community engagement and service learning takes care of preparing waivers and also ensures that insurance is purchased for each student who participates. The school buys this insurance in bulk, he added, which keeps the cost to a few dollars per person. Kido noted that his accounting students volunteer their tax services under the umbrella of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which takes care of liability. For the FAFSA work, participating families sign waivers before students help them with financial aid.


The activities and insights in this article were gleaned from the session “Beyond the Whiteboard: Implementing Service Learning & Community Engagement,” presented by Professor Richard Kido on July 19, 2019, as part of the Course Hero Education Summit’s Student Engagement track.

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